Kerry are out on Saturday for their first championship match of 2019 when they take on Clare in the Munster SFC semi-final at Cusack Park, Ennis.
The Kingdom announced their starting XV earlier this week and purists around the country are already purring at the thought of a full-forward line containing Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue and David Clifford.
It’s a full-forward line dripping with talent and Clare will need to bring their game to new heights if they are to shut down the hype. However, it’s difficult to know how such a potent attacking line will set-up such is the similarity in their games to a certain extent.
You seldom see teams play with three out and out full-forwards in the modern game, will Kerry break that mould this weekend?
Whatever the case may be, Paul Geaney is adamant that the trio can all play different roles if needs be, according to the Dingle man, their roles change every game depending on how it unfolds in front of them.
“It definitely is a factor but most of the time you just play the game that’s in front of you and the players around you will play the game that’s in front of them as well. It fits in.
“I wouldn’t say that I have the same game every day anyway. Even if it is David and James either side of me, I could play one role with them one day and a different role the next day just because the way the game is developing in front of you.
“They’re the same, they’re fairly open to playing different roles. David can play full-forward and so can James and both of them can go out to the 40 and win ball there or pass ball. As it is, we’re developing our tackling a lot and they’re getting better at tackling as I am. We’re going well on all those facets of the game.
“Usually, we just play the game that’s in front of us rather than playing a certain way for each other. That just happens.”
The addition of Donie Buckley to their backroom staff has seen the Kingdom make huge strides defensively. The Kerry native is widely credited with being the lynchpin behind Mayo’s success under both James Horan and Stephen Rochford.
Geaney believes that people will be surprised by how good Kerry are in the tackle this year.
“We’ve done a lot of work, a lot of technique work and there’s been huge improvements this year, I can see it already. We’re not leaving lazy hands in anymore. Obviously there’s going to be the odd time you foul intentionally and then sometimes you’re just caught fouling but there’s been massive leaps in the tackling with Donie’s (Buckley) drills and the emphasis he puts on the tackle.
“You could see it in Mayo how good they were in the tackle over the last few years, that was all Donie. Well I would imagine that was all Donie with the amount of work he does on it so hopefully we can carry that out in the championship and bring that technique to games where sometimes before we’ve been caught guilty and conceding scorable frees that have cost us or not turning over enough ball in the forward line that is making you dangerous up front.
“Hopefully we can bring those techniques we’re doing in sessions into games. I think we will because it’s very visible to me how much we’ve improved in the tackle. I think people might be surprised at how good Kerry are in the tackle this year.”
Buckley can hardly take all the credit though. Peter Keane is the man in charge and life under his tutelage has gone OK so far for this young Kerry side.
They were the stand-out team in the league but unfortunately faltered towards the end of the campaign, losing twice to Mayo in the final few weeks. Geaney missed most of the league campaign due to injury before coming on for the final ten minutes of their league final defeat to Mayo.
He admits that both he and the players are still getting to know Peter Keane but he is fully aware of the man’s talents having won All-Ireland’s with so many of the new blood in this Kerry set-up.
“He’s a good operator, yeah. We’re still getting to know Peter as much as he’s getting to know his team. It’s still a new process.
“I know we’re five or six months in but it’s still a new process and I missed most of the League. I got an injury in the Dublin game that set me back until the League final. I played ten minutes in the League final but I missed a good portion of that as well.
“There were a lot of players who were in and out with injuries as well throughout that. So I suppose the squad is still getting to know each other. There were a couple of guys from last year that were dropped a couple of new guys came in. So it’s a new scene again for us.”
Geaney also admitted that the senior players in the squad felt the pressure following Keane’s appointment given his success with what many believe to be the future of Kerry football.
“He had the younger guys for a couple of All-Irelands, they won All-Irelands and they were his players, I suppose. We didn’t know coming out of last year if we were going to be involved with Kerry this year under new management because you can’t be sure of anything in life. It was a relief to be getting calls to fellas who got them and it’s down to us now to show that we’re able to compete.”